Asheville North CarolinaAsheville, North Carolina.

Here’s where you’ll find blog posts about our hometown – Asheville, North Carolina. We love this place. There’s an amazing spirit in Asheville, and it’s one that can really get the creative juices flowing.

We like to think that Blue Dozen Design is very Asheville. We’re natives (most of us, anyway) and we’ve grown and changed and gotten weirder right along with Asheville. We’ve seen the good and the bad – and we’ve loved this town through every damned bit of it. There’s something, though, about this town that hasn’t changed – and we hope it never does.

Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing

This eleven or so minute video will teach you everything you need to know about the internet. Safety, setup, tips & tricks – it’s got it all! Be sure to watch before it becomes obsolete! It’s information you can’t afford to miss, ignore or something. Hurry!

Your Google Listing is MESSED UP, Asheville!

Your Business Isn’t Properly Listed on Google, and Your Google Plus Page is Literally ON FIRE!

Chicken Little IllustrationI get these calls 4-5 times every damned day. “This is your Google Local Specialist, and we noticed that you haven’t claimed your Google listing,” or “We’ve discovered some problems with your website, and your Google listing is in danger.”

Really? Odd that I’ve not noticed, and that our site is still doing pretty damned well in searches. I mean, considering the sky has fallen and our site has apparently been disappeared from Google, we still do all right! Weird! All this time I’ve spent configuring our site and clients’ sites, all the research and due diligence – and I STILL GOT IT WRONG? DAMN!!

I’m sure we’re not the only ones who get these calls – as there are (according to the last guy that tried to sell me this garbage) at least 15 companies out there with autodialers and lists of business phone numbers. Have you gotten them? If you have, we’re sorry. If you haven’t – you will. They exist to worry you into spending money on useless products and services.

Largely, it’s scare tactics. Most folks who aren’t in the SEO Industry™ are going to get a little worried if they get a call like this. There are some folks that will roll over and wet themselves with worry and then throw enormous amounts of coin at “the problem.”

Not everyone is super search engine savvy, and the idea that your site is either missing from Google altogether, or has some sort of problem that’s keeping it from being found can be terrifying. You HAVE to be on Google, and you HAVE to have good positioning – but it’s not always as simple (or as hard) as some of these predatory companies would have you believe.

There’s an awful lot to consider when it comes to search engine rankings – but throwing a bunch of money and worry at it isn’t always the answer. A lot of times, it’s a LOT simpler than folks think it is – and, as such, a lot cheaper and less troubling. There’s absolutely no need to freak out and give these jack holes a lot of money – especially if you don’t have any real idea of how your site is positioned.

If you get the call – we have a few words of advice:

  1. HANG UP. Anything those folks can do for you can be done by yourself – or with a little help from honest, knowledgeable (local) designer. If you DO talk to them, only talk to them long enough to demand that you be taken off their list.
  2. DON’T PANIC. If you have a problem, a couple of days isn’t going to kill you. There are gaps between crawls, and you can fix most (if not all) your SEO problems pretty quickly.
  3. ASK A NON-BIASED HUMAN. Call us. We want to help. We can give you a FREE (seriously – 100% no obligation) Search Engine Optimization Audit.
  4. #netflixandchill

We’ll pull an audit of your site for your main keyword. Don’t know what your main keywords are or should be? We can help you figure that out, too. We’ll include stuff like backlinks, social signals, keywords, titles, descriptions – all sorts of stuff that’ll show you the REAL health of your site.

Then, you can walk away and at least have an idea of what needs to be done to achieve the ranks you need and want. Or, we can help you fix your site and boost your rankings. Either way, we’ll have gotten to meet each other, and you’ll have a little more ammunition when the bastards call you.

DAMMIT! They’re calling again!

To get your FREE SEO AUDIT – fill this out:

Get Your FREE SEO Audit

Please know that this is not a solicitation – we genuinely want to help. We at least want to give folks some info that can ease the panic or get the ship headed in the right direction.

Also, please know that we make absolutely no guarantees – the audit will have a lot of great info, and it’s free – but we can’t guarantee that it’ll help you out. If you read it , understand it (it’s easy) and take action – you’ll be well-informed and have an idea of why your site isn’t doing as well as you’d like. Otherwise, it’ll be a big fat PDF that you can ignore. Entirely up to you.

We Left Asheville. Here’s Why.

We left our beloved Asheville. In a Dolphin. Six of the seven of us.

Why? Because it was the best thing we could do. It was silly, but it was absolutely necessary.

With all the health shenanigans and strange family issues we’ve been cartwheeling through, we’ve all suffered to one extent or another. It’s been a trying, exhausting spell. But – Life™ has a tendency to come in spells. Good spells, bad spells. But nothing really lasts forever. That’s good and bad. The bad stuff doesn’t last. Thankfully.

Through all of it, though – we have these kids. 5 amazing people. 5 wonderful, funny, crazy, creative, beautiful kids who have rolled with the punches and kept on smiling. Thankfully, we have a family that has a wonderful time all the time. That’s always helped us through. But, when things go sideways, they suffer along with us. And, with all the goings-on and day-to-day stresses in our lives, we’ve missed a lot of opportunities to connect and enjoy our kids and each other (Beth and I.) We also miss a lot of opportunities to just have fun.

With everything that had been going down, we needed to escape. Not work, not responsibility – but we needed to escape our routine of worry and stress and chores and errands and reconnect. We knew if we planned and waited for the right opportunity to make that escape, it might not come for a long time – if at all. Work and bills and household duties and the stress of the day will always be here – but our kids are getting older every day. We’ll eventually lose them all to the dreaded teen years when they REALLY think we’re uncool. Time is precious. Family is preciouser. It was time to do something silly and make some memories and grow closer to our kids before they grow further away. Since they rolled with us through all the trials, we thought it was time to roll with those precious little souls – literally.

"Sadie," Our 1987 Toyota Dolphin.

“Sadie,” Our 1987 Toyota Dolphin*.

So, we left Asheville in a 1987 Toyota Dolphin. We didn’t know where we were going, but had a faint idea of seeing Niagara Falls. We packed some food, some clothes and an axe. We’d never done anything like this before. Heck, we’ve only camped a few times in our 23 years of marriage.

We’d seen some YouTube videos, and figured that was all the training you could possibly need on how to live in an RV.

We didn’t have a plan. We didn’t have a map. We just hopped in and ran.

We stayed in WalMart parking lots. We ate cereal (a LOT,) and we swam in bodies of water I don’t recall the name of. We saw Niagara, DC, Gettysburg and Chincoteague Island. We stunk. We were hungry. We got on each other’s nerves. The RV leaked. We did laundry in several states. We laughed and sang and hollered and got to stand in awe of a lot of amazing things. With each other.

It was simply wonderful. I don’t regret one damned second of it. I feel better now. A deep down soul better. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t have a map for that, either.

Click for a few photos of the first of many adventures

Click for a few photos of the first of many adventures

Now, granted – I had planned on working more than I did. But, that didn’t happen thanks to spotty electricity and spottier cell coverage (I’m looking at YOU, US Cellular.) Probably not a good thing, but in a way – a really good thing. I’m recharged. I’m excited. We’re all excited.

We’re going to renovate the RV now. We’re going to turn it into the ultimate adventure machine, and we’re going to cart our kids as far as that bucket of bolts can take us – and we’re going to see some amazing things and have some amazing times. Because time is always running. And you never know when it’s going to stop.

There – that’s why we left. We’re back. We will leave again. In the meantime – we’re going to kick ass on some projects, we’re going to dream. We’re still going to laugh and fool around with the kids. We’ll cherish our memories, and we’ll grow increasingly excited to make more.

So, where am I going with this? Life is short. Kids grow so fast. Health ebbs and flows. Families do crazy shit. You never know what’s going to happen. But, dammit – you can MAKE something good happen. Now. One way or another – take the time you have and make something great. Make it great with the people you love.

Tomorrow, God willing, it’ll be back to your normal bloggy goodness about web design, SEO and logos and such. But, today – this was what I felt I should write. I’m exhausted and looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. Now, go forth and create something.

*for the record, I wanted to call it the Millennium Dolphin, but was voted down.
WorPress SEO

WordPress SEO – Day 3: Backlinks are Great (and Suck)

SO – your site is set up with Yoast, you’re checked in with Google Webmaster Tools, your permalinks are set and your site is visible. Excellent! You’re on your way to good SEO. But, you could also have some problems you’re not aware of. Bad backlinks can a real problem – and if they’re bad enough, they can get your site killed on Google. Not good.

What are backlinks? Backlinks are links from sites that point back to your site. If they’re legit links from reputable sites, they’re good. If they’re a bunch of garbage links on questionable sites that have nothing to do with what your site is about, you might have troubles – and those troubles can doom your website.

How do you get bad backlinks? Some search engine optimizers purchase backlink packages from exceptionally questionable services. Sure, you might get 10,000 backlinks to your site, but those links are from a bunch of weird websites in Prague or Chile. They’re usually just link “farms,” and their value is, at best, super-low. At worse, they’re enough to get you penalized, sandboxed, or de-listed. This is the problem with paying for SEO that you can’t see or that you can’t quantify. Buying backlinks might get you a major boost in your search engine rankings – but they could also blow up in your face.

What makes a bad backlink?

  • Questionable Sites: If your business is in Asheville, why would you have a backlink from a site in Russia? If you’re a florist, do you want your link being posted on a vaguely pornographic anime site in Singapore? If you’ve got a lot of links from weird sites, you need to do something about it.
  • Too Much, Too Fast: If you go from 10 backlinks to 15,000 in a couple of months, Google is going to notice. Building quality backlinks is a long-term process. There is no get-rich-quick scheme here. Slow and steady wins the race. Come out like a jackrabbit, and you’re probably not going to finish the race.
  • Repeated Anchor Text: If your backlinks are all coming from text that says something like “Asheville’s Most Beautiful Floral Arrangements for Mother’s Day,” but those links are coming from hundreds of different websites, Google will see that as suspicious. A natural linking pattern will have greatly varied anchor text.
  • Too Many of the Same Types of Links: If all your incoming links are coming from the same type of link (text links, in-content links, image links, etc.,) you’re in a danger zone. You need a variety of contexts for your links – but if all the links look the same, Google will scrutinize ALL your backlinks. You don’t want that.

Now – how do you tell if you’ve got bad backlinks? Webmaster Tools can help. Here’s how:

  1. Sign in to your Webmaster Tools account (you created one on Day 1, right?
  2. Click on your domain name.
  3. Click on “Search Traffic” and then “Links to Your Site.”
  4. In the first column, “Who Links the Most” (in the middle of the page,) click on “More>>”
  5. View your backlinks, and make a note of anything you don’t recognize or that looks fishy.

What do you do if you find anything fishy? First, check to see if it’s actually spammy. It could be that you’ve just been picked up by a directory. Check the links. Next, contact the owner of the site and ask them to take your link down. You can look up the contact info for any site at BetterWhois.com. There, you can type in the domain name that has the offending link and find emails and phone numbers. This can be difficult if you have a large number of spammy links, and the success rate is pretty low. We’ve found that this works about 2% of the time. These spammy backlink sites are largely automated, and sending an email to the webmaster usually goes unnoticed and unanswered. But – that’s the first thing to try.

If contacting and asking the bums nicely doesn’t work, you can always go nuclear. Google has created a “Disavow” tool, that will tell Google you don’t approve of those links, and that you disavow any relationship with them. Click here to go and check it out. They’re pretty particular about how you format the request, and they prefer that you try to manually remove stuff – but this can be a good last-ditch device to get rid of your spammy backlinks.

Now, if you go in and you don’t have backlinks – that’s a very different story. If you need links, we can help. If you want to find some yourself, go for it – reputable online directories, social media, other blogs and websites are good places to start. Again, though – it’s quality over quantity. And, context makes a difference – especially for local search. We’ll go over some strategies on a later day – and we’ll give you some links to help you get started on the road to sweet rankings!

Up Next: A Five Point WordPress Site Health Inspection.

WorPress SEO

WordPress SEO – Day 2: 2 Easy Settings That Make It 2 Hard

Today is a a real quick one. You’ve got a WordPress site, and you want it to rank high? Don’t miss these 2 (seemingly) simple things that can have MASSIVE effects on your SEO.

Discourage Search Engines WordPress

Click to Get a Bigger View

The first is usually a problem only if you’ve been building your site on a staging server or subdomain, and you’ve told Google to lay off while you’re under construction. We’ve seen this happen a lot with other WordPress developers – they build a site in a separate area, and they simply forget to turn this one little doohickey off (or ON, in a way…)

It’s the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” setting in Settings>Reading. This box MUST be checked off, or Google WILL ignore your site. It says “It’s up to search engines to honor this request.” They honor that request. Always. And, to make it worse, if Google sees this enough times, they might just ignore you forever. So – good people – please make sure that you do NOT see that box with a tick or an x or a check in it. If it’s already empty, you’re in good shape – but make sure it’s empty.

Best WordPress Permalinks Settings

Click to Get a Bigger View

The second is another problem that can drastically harm your search engine rankings: Permalinks being set up incorrectly. By default, WordPress has your permalinks set to be the number of the page – and this creates a big problem. Google sees your URLS as http://YOURSITE.com/?p=123, but for optimal search engine optimization, you want them to read as http://YOURSITE.com/about-our-wonderful-product. Google actually picks up cues as to what your site is about from the TITLE of the pages in your site. If Google shows up and all your pages are just numbers and question marks, all the good SEO in the world ain’t gonna amount to a hill of beans. Get your permalinks sorted!

To change your WordPress Permalinks, go to Settings>Reading, and click on the “Post Name” option. This will instantly re-write the page names with the title of the page, instead of that ugly number and question mark. Pretty sweet!

While those are pretty simple, here’s a little video to help you out:

Tomorrow: It’s Saturday. I’m not doing this tomorrow. But, on Monday – Check Them Backlinks!

21 Days to Search Engine Optimization on WordPress

WordPress SEO – Day 1: Webmaster Tools & Yoast

Today, we’ll walk through getting your site set up with Webmaster Tools and connecting your WordPress Yoast SEO plugin. These are THE first (and possibly most crucial) steps to getting your site noticed by Google.

Below, you’ll find a video with an exceptionally charming and handsome narrator that’ll walk you step-by-step through getting started on a good, healthy and sustainable SEO path. This is really the beginning – but it’s so amazingly important that not doing this can cost weeks or months of Google goodness. Leave these steps out at your own peril.

The steps (for those of you who like words:)

  1. Install Yoast SEO: Go to your dashboard, hover over “Plugins,” click “Add New” and search for “Yoast.” Once you find it, install it and activate it. This is the de facto WordPress SEO plugin. There are tons of others, but we’ve found this to be the most robust and flexible. Good stuff!
  2. Go to Webmaster Tools: Click here if you don’t want to type in the URL. If you have a Google account (Gmail,) this will be easy. If you don’t, it’ll still be easy. Get yourself a Webmaster Tools account – you’re gonna need it!
  3. Verify That You Own Your Site: Once you’re in Webmaster Tools, click “Add Property” and type in your domain name. Make sure it’s right – and if your site is http://www.SITENAME.com or just, http://SITENAME.com (with no www) – make sure you enter it completely and correctly. verify your property using the “Alternate Methods” and “HTML Tag.” Copy that long line of code. DON’T CLICK OUT OF THIS WINDOW. Leave it open – you’re going to come back to it in step 4.
  4. Add Verification Code to Yoast: Back in your WordPress dashboard, hover over SEO (in the lower left hand) and click on “General” and then “Webmaster Tools.” Paste the code you copied in Step 4 into the “Google Search Console” field, click save.
  5. Confirm with Google: Go BACK to Webmaster Tools. NOW click on the red “Verify” button. If you see a green check, you’re good. If no bueno, start over with step 3, above.
  6. Generate Sitemap: Go back to your WordPress dashboard and hover over SEO and click on the XML Sitemaps button. Once there, you can click to view your sitemap. Click and copy the end of the URL. Generally, the URL looks like http://YOURSITE.com/sitemap_index.xml (so you can just copy sitemap_index.xml here.)
  7. Notify Google of Sitemap: Go BACK to Webmaster tools, and click on “Crawl” and then “Sitemaps.” Click the red “Add/Test Sitemap” button (in the right-hand upper corner,) and paste your sitemap_index.xml. Click to confirm, and you’re golden.

Now, what you’ve done here is to set your site up for on-board SEO success by installing Yoast, you’ve notified Google that not only do you exist, but that you really know what you’re doing – because you have a sitemap. You’ve taken some of the biggest steps to not only being indexed by Google, but also to making sure that Google knows exactly where you are, what you have and what you’re up to. Kind of creepy, I guess, but ultimately – good.

Tomorrow: A Couple of WordPress Settings that Might Kill Your Site to Google.

21 Days to Search Engine Optimization on WordPress

21 Days to SEO Your WordPress Site…

21 Days to Search Engine Optimization on WordPressSo, you’ve got a WordPress site. It’s your pride and joy (especially if we designed and developed it) and you’re really excited to show it off – but you’re not quite sure what to do to get traffic. The brass ring here is good placement with Google (and to a lesser extent, Bing and Yahoo.) How do you do that? You optimize your site – SEO. Search Engine Optimization. There are a few steps – and they can seem a little daunting, but for the next 21 days, we’re going to walk you through how to really SEO your WordPress site, get it set up right and get some asses in the seats.

3 weeks. No guarantee that you’re going to dominate Google, but in those three weeks, you’ll learn what to do and what not to do to set your site up for success with search engines – and more importantly, how to set it up for long term, sustainable and legit traffic.

Why do you want to SEO your WordPress site?

  • Search engines (especially Google) are a hugely important traffic source.
  • Usually, before someone decides to use your goods and services, they’re going to Google you.
  • You’ve got a website – don’t you want to generate leads and sales? If folks are out there searching for the products and services you offer, don’t you want to stand up and be counted? Yes, you do.
  • Google is ubiquitous, and they control much of the search (and hence, a lot of the business) on the web. It’s a fact.

As good as dominating Google can be, you don’t want to put ALL your eggs in that basket – and you don’t want to design and develop your marketing strictly on the merits of good SEO.

Search Engine Optimization should be a part of your total marketing strategy. An important part – but a part, nonetheless.

There’s 3 reasons for that thinking:

  1. SEO Can Take a Long Time to Work Optimally: You’re not going to see overnight results. The stuff you do during these three weeks could take months to pay real dividends. SEO is a long, slow burn – but that burn is important.
  2. SEO Changes: Google is the consummate tinkerer. They change their algorithm more than Rue Paul changes wigs – and your traffic and placement can go up and down. Your competition makes changes and improvements. There are so many variables, but the constant is change. If you stay on top of it, though – you WILL see long-term benefits from good SEO practices, regardless of what Google does.
  3. SEO Can Make People Sick: An over-optimized site can be irritating. If your site and your posts and pages are set up to first and foremost make Google happy, you’re going to alienate the folks that visit your site. Getting them there is important, but you can’t present them with something that is ugly or confusing and stuffed with keywords. Always think user experience FIRST – SEO second.

So – don’t put all your eggs in the SEO basket. It’s important, but you need an overall marketing plan for your business (and your site.) Don’t neglect content, social media and traditional marketing efforts. SEO is part of the gestalt of good marketing. In this day and age, it’s enormous – but it’s not the only place to look.

Stay tuned for the next (now) 20 days. You’ll come away with a better understanding of what good SEO is, a little more intimate knowledge of your WordPress site and a bit of a plan to keep it up and get more visitors, more clicks and more sales. It’s gonna be fun, kiddies!

Tomorrow: Installing Yoast SEO and Setting Up Webmaster Tools

And, for your auditory pleasure, a vaguely relevant reggae tune…

Logo Design Asheville NC

Logo Design – It’s Not That Damned Hard…

Logo Design Asheville NCActually, logo design can be horribly difficult. There are so many forms, so many shapes, so many fonts, so many tools, so many colors that it can be a difficult thing to whittle down to the essential, creative process of logo design. We’ve nailed the process – and if you need a beautiful, non-crappy logo, you’re in the right place.

We’ve done hundreds upon hundreds of logos – everything from sports teams to e-liquid companies and pretty much everything in between – but the logo design process remains the same:

Step One: Gather info on who you are, what you are, who your audience is and what your “vibe” is as a person or as a business. We’ve got a comprehensive logo design questionnaire that we use to gather info, and we’re always happy to chat and gather ideas the old-fashioned way. Once we’ve got a lock on what you’re about and what you’re looking for, we gather it up, put it between the ears and get the process really rolling.

Step Two: Think. This is always the hardest part to bill – but it’s the most crucial part. Inspiration doesn’t always come when you’re sitting at your desk from 9 to 5. Sometimes, it’s in the shower. Sometimes, it’s while I’m feeding the chickens. I can spend, quite literally, 20+ hours thinking about a logo design direction before anything ever reaches paper or pixel.

Step Three: The blank sheet. I keep a number of sketchbooks, Moleskines, notepads and Post-it note pads around me at all times. When the ideas flow, they hit the paper as soon as I can get them there. Sketches, roughs, notes, dumb jokes – they’re all part of the logo design process. Ideas about your name, ideas about your audience, ideas for generating more ideas – all on the paper.

Step Four: The pixel. After the sketches are where they need to be (also known as coherent,) the work of digitizing the logo roughs begins. Photoshop, Illustrator and (gasp – 1997!) Freehand round out the tool box. A zillion fonts to choose from – but by this point, we have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for. We build anywhere from 6 to 15 “rough” ideas and let you start narrowing them down.

Step Five: The back and forth. Once the initial round is done, we let you play with them. Combine, rearrange, add, subtract. It all helps us get down to the final, perfect piece. We usually find that 2-3 rounds of revision are sufficient, but if we need to keep going we can keep going.

Step Six: Done. You’ve got a killer, 100% original logo. We deliver in a variety of formats (PDF, AI, EPS, PSD, JPG, etc.,) and we make sure you’ve got everything you need – color specs, font specs, spacing conventions, all that jazz.

Since your logo is arguably the MOST important part of your identity and marketing, it needs to be good. Hell, it needs to be GREAT. Let’s get started on making something great.

We ran across this video of Aaron Draplin’s process – and while it’s a 15 minute video that shows how some of the stuff is done, it’s the years of experience and his genuine talent that makes the process look so smooth and quick. It’s worth a watch. Now, if you just imagine this guy being a 6′ 4″ graying doofus, about 100 pounds lighter and with a coffee cup permanently attached to his left hand, you get a good idea of what it looks like here when we attack the logo process. Enjoy! Then, when you’re ready to roll on YOUR logo, click here.